The Real Deal
Illegally copied or non compliant power tools making their way onto the market can be a real problem for everyone. Craig Taylor explains . . .
More and more non compliant power tools are entering the Australian market as the competitive industrial and DIY power tools segment continues to grow. These non compliant power tools are typically sold through alternative distribution channels like the internet, regional field days, trade fairs and weekend markets. However, it is now apparent that traditional power tool retailers like tool specialists and hardware stores are being approached by counterfeit manufacturers and their Australian importers. Some of the power tools on offer are replicas (in appearance but not necessarily in quality) of well known and respected brands, including exact copies of component colours and model numbers. However, many of them do not carry proper approval markings for the genuine article.
Genuine tools sold in Australia have been subjected to a rigorous product testing and safety approval process. Tools that have undergone this process are identifiable because an approval number appears on the tool. Unfortunately, the manufacturers and suppliers of copied tools can easily replicate an approval number already obtained by the original manufacturer and then import and sell into the country. Highly competitive prices are attainable because there is no cost associated with an approval process, warranty obligations or customer service support. Shipping costs are also low as are the overheads of selling through non tradition channels like the internet.
In the wrong place
A second problem concerns unauthorised branded products entering the Australian market. These products are otherwise genuine but they are not intended for sale in the Australian market by the manufacturer because they have not been tested and approved according to local laws and regulations. These tools may not be safe to use under Australian conditions and will not be covered by warranty from the manufacturing company.
Who does this affect and how?
The issue affects the entire power tools industry as well as everyone in the supply chain. Manufacturers, agents, distributors, retailers and consumers are all affected, not least because counterfeit and fraudulent tools can pose a serious electrical and/or operational safety hazard. Someone who is injured as a result of using a poor quality replica tool will have difficulty finding the importer or non traditional seller to obtain compensation. If the tool was sold by a retailer, they will not have recourse to a company that stands behind the product, potentially exposing that retailer directly to cost and legal claims.
There have also been documented cases of unauthorised dealers importing branded products directly from the United States. These products usually arrive with a US standard 110 volt charger. This charger does not meet Australian electrical standards pertaining to suppression, correct cord set or insulation of plug pins. Replacement 240 volt chargers may also not be suitable for the tool.
Manufacturers and their suppliers are experiencing an increasing number of warranty and liability claims from consumers who have purchased unauthorised branded tools. It is a legal requirement that all products sold in Australia show the approved safety and warranty aspects of the product through its packaging and instruction manuals.
One way to test a product’s genuineness is to look for an approved instruction manual with the original packaging. Illegitimate products are often sold with US or European instruction manuals, or the manual has actually been removed from the packaging prior to sale.
For sellers, it is a legal requirement to provide proof of electrical approval with any power tool sold. Even with cordless products, electrical approval is still mandatory for chargers supplied with that product. Unauthorised dealers often do not have these approvals which means they are in violation of various Australian and New Zealand State and Territory laws. Retailers and consumers should look out for Australian Standards compliance details, Australian approval numbers or marks and an Australian Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM).
PTAA: promoting safe power tools
The Power Tools Association of Australasia (PTAA) represents the major manufacturers and suppliers of reputable and known brands of power tools to the Australasian market. PTAA members follow the strict regulation and approval processes for all power tools introduced into the Australian market and obtain a safety approval number for each product. The PTAA takes the issue of illegitimately copied products very seriously and educates customers about the benefits of purchasing quality branded and approved products from authorised traders.
Craig Taylor is the Executive Director of the Power Tools Association of Australasia. Contact the PTAA at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.amei.com.au for more information.
CAPTION: Can you spot the difference? The real article (top) and the copy as advertised on the freely accessible website of a Chinese company. Even the model number was copied.